Photo Credit: Velvet Ashes, Amy Young
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. – Ephesians 6:12-13
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD shines over you. For look, darkness will cover the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the LORD will shine over you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to your shining brightness. – Isaiah 60:1-3
Earlier this week, the American church had a brief tremor in its universe. At the request of our country’s president, a pastor of a mega-church, in the Washington, DC area, prayed for and over him onstage during one of the Sunday services. There followed both support and outcry at this which on each side was a shock to the other. God’s call for us to pray for those in authority [1 Timothy 2:1-5] clashed with bringing politics to the podium.
As the church, we are in turmoil over the issues on which we disagree. Our country’s culture’s seeming fondness for agitation and offense has colored our unity as believers. We can heatedly disagree over the most trivial things…at least in light of eternity. Worship style. Who we are willing to partner with theologically. What else?
Then you take this struggle out of the church and into the public arena. We too often think that the rules of engagement should be Christian even though the culture is secular. The fight ought to be fair, right? The argument begs to be civil, true? Not what we find. [Or worse if we don’t find it because we don’t own our part in creating it.]
That’s why we pull back from conversation with those who oppose us and just stick with “our own”. It’s not what Jesus commanded his children.
In another time and yet similar culture, Jesus told his disciples he was “sending [them] out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves“ (Matthew 10:16).
We bicker with each other over things that matter less but shy away from the conversations that matter much more. There is a way still.
Professor, writer Alan Jacobs has written a piece for such a time as this: What a Clash Between Conservatives Reveals . Please read it in full. Although it is not an easy read; it’s challenging and thought- (and action-) provoking.
“‘Respect for the dignity of the other person created in the image of God requires that we not silence or exclude him but try to persuade him.’ Even when people are wrong, “’we must put up with them or tolerate them or, much better, respect and love them’ —not because that is a politically effective strategy, which it may or may not be, but because we are so instructed by God.
This respect and love require a commitment to conversation, and “conversation requires civility”—even when people do not reciprocate that civility. After all, it is Jesus himself who tells us that when we are struck on one cheek, we should turn the other toward our attacker. Civility should not be our religion, but ‘there are religiously imperative reasons for being civil that do not entail turning civility into a religion.’
Charity, and the civility and decency that accompany charity…are what we are commanded to do. And charity begins at home.” – Alan Jacobs
In our desire to be more like Jesus in the culture He has placed us in, we must grapple with engaging it as He would…as He did.
As for those who don’t agree with us or we with them? They matter. I might have a place at pastor and politically liberal John Pavlovitz‘s table…but probably not a real voice (I’m way too conservative). Still, he helps me make sense of a different view of the church and our larger community. His quote sizzles with meaning and conviction:Photo Credit: ChurchPlant
[Sidebar: Our country’s polarized stalemate on immigration policy is so maddening. Even I have ideas on how to move forward with this process in ways that both serve our country and the world. Pavlovitz’s piece Why Do You Think They Cross the Border? gives a view worth reading no matter our stance on this divisive issue. No solutions to the complex problems but a view from a different side of the issue). I could have done without the stone-throwing…but it is what it is in our country, even among thought-leaders.]
O church, arise and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain;
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies;
An army bold whose battle cry is “Love!”
Reaching out to those in darkness.
Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on ev’ry side,
We know the outcome is secure,
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.
Come, see the cross where love and mercy meet,
As the Son of God is stricken;
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet,
For the Conqueror has risen!
And as the stone is rolled away,
And Christ emerges from the grave,
This vict’ry march continues till the day
Ev’ry eye and heart shall see Him.
So Spirit, come, put strength in ev’ry stride,
Give grace for ev’ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.*